Zen diary – October

October : A session of mental hibernation

In this month of October, it’s time to prepare for winter. Days get shorter, sleeves get longer, and we just want to keep warm under the covers. So it’s an ideal moment to turn towards ourself, and get to know ourself better. With this question, for instance: what are you thinking about? You can ( let’s be generous) keep the nature of your thoughts to yourself, but answer this question: what form do your thoughts take?

When we look closely at the procession of all the thoughts that go through our mind, we can see two surprising things. First, it is impossible to predict what we will think of in the next 5 minutes. Second, no one has yet discovered the source of thoughts, or consciousness, despite all the techno tools at our disposal. ( Of course, Buddhism had some ideas about this, but it would take too long to discuss them here ) So to go further into knowing yourself,here’s a little game.

What’s in my head?

Sit down in a calm place, close your eyes and go in to explore your inner terrain.How are your thoughts? Are they visual images, coloured, moving or still, like little inner films? Are they commentaries or analyses, judgements we come to through words and a little “inner voice?” (If, along the way, you worry about hearing voices , don’t worry, you aren’t crazy, it happens to most of us.)

Or, when you close the eyes and centre in on yourself, do you have physical and emotional sensations that crop up in the body? Heat, cold, heartbeat, heavy, light, pinching or throbbing. This is the third possible form of thought, which we can call “ body thinking.” Each one of us probably encounters all three of these ways of thinking. But often, one is the most familiar. So are you visual, auditory or physical?

The key: when starting to watch the thoughts, you become a witness and step back. You have a new point of view that is both internal and external.

In addition: with training, this position and this ability to step back bring about a great inner stability, which comes from a complete awareness of oneself, in any circumstance.


Month by month, a journey through the little worries of everyday life – 19 practical exercises to overcome them and modify our relationship to life.

Chronicles written with four hands with the journalist François Busson, for the Swiss magazine L’Illustré.

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